As students, we were often forced to participate in extracurricular activities, but these two Maadi Narmer School 17-year-olds are changing what it means to go to school in the 21st century.
One could argue that all of the socio-economic disadvantages in today's world is the result of a neoliberal and capitalist culture which favours the privileged and financially capable. We could also argue that materialism and unjust market competition further debilitates all those from disadvantaged backgrounds, thus further widening the gap between the rich and the poor. Sure, this is the most likely scenario.
While there are NGOs and social enterprises going to great lengths in order to empower those who are disadvantaged, the long-term solution to this dilemma lies in the country’s future generations to empower those around them who are working on themselves to change the reality of their society. And perhaps even eradicate this neoliberal culture by focusing on social empowerment, rather than self-centred financial gain.
Seeing a need to inspire their peers to achieve greatness and revolutionise the future of Egypt, Malak Moussa and Heidi Osama, two 17-year-old girls, decided to introduce TedxYouth to their school - Maadi Narmer School - with the central theme being The Future is Now!
“I’ve been to four Tedx events as an organiser in the past,” begins Moussa, “It inspires people for life, and I wanted to bring that to our school.” Just in case you’re not familiar with Tedx, imagine a whole day dedicated to providing inspiring speakers with a platform to share their ideas, talk about thought-provoking topics, and stimulate revolutionary conversation capable of actually making a difference. TedxYouth, essentially, is the same thing except it’s organised and targeted at a younger faction of the community.
“The students organised everything. They had to practice speeches and rehearse before the event,” tells a proud Salma Mashhour, teacher and TedxYouth supervisor at the school. The evening, along with all of its speakers, its production, and its rehearsals was organised and run by the students at the school, with the preliminary supervision of their teachers.
The students organised everything.
Not only are we increasingly seeing students take on a task that is often assigned to experienced event organisers, but we are also seeing a shift in the way education is being approached in Egypt. When thinking back to the school curriculum in the 90s or even the early 00s, teachers were merely responsible for teaching math, English, history, science, and a second language, depending on where you went to school. You were extra lucky if your school had art and music teachers. But as generations progressed, teachers now play the role of a mentor; inspiring their students to think beyond the traditional school curriculum.
“We have a student empowerment program here for high school students,” Hala Tawfik head of IG tells us, “students will attend debate classes, learn about community development, journalism, and we even hold model United Nations conferences,” she continues. “The students are always excited for extra-curricular activities. They all know how to raise funds, how to run debates, and how to speak in public because we have these classes as part of their curriculum. These skills are not offered in regular schools,” adds Mashhour.Grateful for the opportunity, Osama has recognised the value of being involved in organising this TedxYouth event. “I learnt leadership skills and details that I wouldn’t have learnt anywhere else. We had to build the committees and everything from scratch by ourselves,” Osama recounts, “I am so grateful that the school gave me this opportunity because I wouldn’t be the person I am today had I not been through this experience.” For Moussa, being the founder of such an event at her school, and having named the theme for the night, she has become inspired to continue impacting other people’s lives positively. “If I have positive things to say, and if I get the opportunity, I will speak at another Tedx talk. I want to represent my community in a positive light, and show that you don’t have to wait around to do things,” Mousa confesses about her future aspirations.
We can try, we can fail, but trying won’t hurt. You can seek guidance and work with people to achieve what you want to achieve.
To share this message with the rest of the school, and fitting in with the political conditions of Egypt, the theme for the event The Future is Now! deals with that overwhelming feeling that we need to be well into our careers before even thinking about achieving something. It deals with the assumption and perhaps the widespread perception that we need to be Harvard graduates with privileged parents in order drive social change. “We have to grab every opportunity we have, because if we don’t, we will not be anyone significant and it’s like we didn’t even exist,” explains Osama. “We all have ambitions, and there is nothing that should hold us back. We can try, we can fail, but trying won’t hurt. You can seek guidance and work with people to achieve what you want to achieve,” continues Moussa; a message that was shared across the school.
Both of these girls have their hearts set on being society change makers, regardless of what career path they choose to take. They hope that everyone will work to find a way to follow their ambitions, regardless of who they are or where they come from.
Check out the video from the TedxYouth event below.